The effects of Bimuno® GOS in those prone to functional gastrointestinal issues

More than 40% of individuals worldwide experience functional gastrointestinal disorders (FGDs), such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and functional dyspepsia (Fikree and Byrne., 2021). Diarrhoea, constipation, bloating and nausea are just some of the symptoms associated with such conditions, and despite their detrimental effect on quality of life (QoL), no organic cause can be found, creating a challenge in terms of management (Fikree and Byrne., 2021). As more is being discovered about these conditions, it is thought that changes in gut sensitivity, motility and the gut barrier function could be involved in their development (Wei et al., 2021). Importantly, these functions can be influenced by the gut microbiome and as such, could be a key target in the management, and possibility even prevention, of these conditions (Geng et al., 2022).

Role of the gut microbiome

Research shows that the composition of the gut microbiota is important in human health and can influence many areas of wellbeing. What constitutes as an optimal microbial profile is highly individual, however, a higher proportion of certain species of bacteria, such as those belonging to the Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus genera, are associated with positive effects on wellbeing (Yang et al., 2020). In the case of FGDs, these conditions are associated with a microbial signature with lower levels of beneficial bacteria and higher levels of potentially pathogenic bacteria, such as species belonging to the Enterobacter genus (Wang et al., 2020; Wei et al., 2021). This imbalance is known as ‘dysbiosis’ and can have a profound effect on the development of health conditions (Carding et al., 2015). Therefore, interventions to modulate the composition of the gut microbiota and increase levels of beneficial bacteria could offer another way to manage symptoms and reduce the impact FGDs have on QoL.

The gut microbiota can be affected by many factors, including lifestyle-related factors that can be modified, such as diet, sleep and stress, but also by genetics and age (Hasan and Yang., 2019). When looking specifically at nutrition, a key food component essential not only for gastrointestinal health, but also for a functioning gut microbiota, is dietary fibre. Dietary fibre is a type of indigestible carbohydrate that has been shown to contribute towards bowel regularity and motility (Cronin et al., 2021). In regard to the gut microbiota, dietary fibre can contribute to a more diverse composition of microbes (British Dietetic Association., 2021). In particular, prebiotic fibre has been shown to stimulate the growth of beneficial bacteria and support a favourable balance of microbes in the gut (Lockyer and Stanner., 2019).

Evidence using prebiotics

In 2018, Vulevic and colleagues conducted a double-blind, placebo controlled, crossover study looking at the effects of Bimuno® GOS on functional gastrointestinal symptoms such as bloating, abdominal pain and flatulence. 83 patients with more than a 75% probability of having FGDs were recruited and split at random into two groups. Each group followed a 7-week protocol, consisting of 1-week of gastrointestinal and mood symptom screening, followed by 2-weeks consuming either Bimuno GOS® (2.75g (1.37g active GOS)) or placebo (maltodextrin) and a 2-week wash-out period, before switching to the opposite treatment for the final 2-weeks. Supplementation with Bimuno GOS® resulted in significant reductions in abdominal pain, flatulence and bloating from baseline and placebo at the end of the first week, with the effect sustained into the second week (Vulevic et al., 2018). This research adds to a body of evidence suggesting that modulating the gut microbiota to increase levels of beneficial bacteria could serve as a potential route to minimise the impact of FGDs.

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